- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2008

CHARLOTTESVILLE | In the team hotel on the night before his final road game, Clemson running back James Davis decided to make sure his team knew where he stood.

“I said, ‘Hey, I’m a senior and this is my last road game. I need this one,’ ” Davis said he told his teammates. “‘I want to go to a bowl game. I want something to be proud of.’”

The Tigers delivered for Davis and 27 other seniors Saturday, turning three Virginia turnovers into points and playing stout defense in a 13-3 victory that kept alive Clemson’s chance of winning its last two regular-season games to qualify for a bowl game.

The Tigers (6-5, 4-4 ACC) turned two interceptions and a fumble recovery into points, getting enough to win on C.J. Spiller’s halfback-option touchdown pass in the first quarter. A late interception sealed it as Clemson allowed just 190 yards.

With two victories against Football Championship Subdivision teams, the Tigers also will need to defeat South Carolina in Death Valley next week to reach the postseason, and the sense of urgency Davis was hoping for fueled their efforts all day.

“That was the only thing we talked about,” said defensive back Michael Hamlin, whose interception gave the Tigers the ball at the Virginia 20 before Spiller’s big pass. “Our mind-set coming into the game was play it like a playoff game. If we would have lost, we were going home, so our main thing was to just go out there and do everything it takes to win.”

The 15-yard scoring pass was the first of Spiller’s career.

“I actually thought I overthrew him,” he said of Tyler Grisham, who ran what Virginia coach Al Groh said was a common fake and found himself with no defenders anywhere near him.

When Mark Buchholz later added field goals of 32 and 23 yards, the Tigers had more than enough to win. The last was set up by Clemson’s third interception of the game.

“This is one that doesn’t take a big, thick microscope to dissect,” Groh said. “It was pretty obvious.”

The Cavaliers (5-6, 3-4) lost their third in a row after a four-game winning streak that put them in the race for the ACC’s Coastal Division title. Virginia needs to win next weekend at Virginia Tech to qualify for a bowl, and Groh’s teams are 1-6 against the Hokies.

The loss rendered meaningless a strong effort by Virginia’s defense, which limited Clemson to 192 total yards and held the vaunted tandem of Spiller and Davis to 83 rushing yards.

“This is a team game, and we didn’t win,” linebacker Clint Sintim said. “We held them to 200 yards. That’s great. It looks good on paper and all those numbers and things like that, but all that really matters at the end of the day is whether you win or lose, and we lost the game. Whether they had 200 or they had 600, it doesn’t matter. They won and we lost and that’s all it comes down to.”

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